Busking in London: update

Busking in London: update
  • Reams of red tape and a myriad of confusing rules could force talented buskers off London’s streets, the Mayor Boris Johnson has warned as he launched a new campaign to nurture the capital’s street musicians.

  • There is no doubt that live music on our streets adds to the city’s vibrancy, but I fear some parts of the capital could become no-go areas for buskers. Rather than shackling our musicians with unnecessary bureaucracy, we should treasure the spontaneity they bring to our high streets and town centres.

Since Boris Johnson launched his campaign to make London the most busker-friendly city in the world in 2014, a lot has happened.

As we feared at the time what has happened has been entirely the opposite. What has been supported and nurtured is a sanitised, regulated, corporate  version of street performance, whilst genuine grassroots busking has been systematically marginalised and  criminalised.

The sad fact now is that there is virtually nowhere viable and open to busk in central London.

Barking and Dagenham no restrictions.


Bexley  Claim that busking is licensed. We are unaware if legislation has been passed and need to follow this up.



Camden license now only applies to louder acts, circle shows and groups




Greenwich has now introduced licensing in Greenwich and Woolwich town centres. Other areas open as normal.


Hammersmith and Fulham- PSPOs banning amplification in Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush 


Harrow seems to have a PSPO in place requiring permission from the BID to either busk or use amplification (not clear which) and only in Harrow town centre area.Clarifiaction requested but not received.

Havering open. Successful campaign against PSPO in Romford.

Hillingdon Licensed with only 4 locations available.

Hounslow “If a busker or a group of buskers act in such a way as to cause a nuisance to Passers by, then they will be asked to cease and leave the area.”


Kensington and Chelsea operate an extremely complex PSPO regime.

Kingston upon Thames Guidelines





Redbridge 3 ‘designated” pitches in Ilford town centre. Otherwise uncontrolled.

Richmond upon Thames



Tower Hamlets PSPO in Brick Lane prohibiting busking after 9pm. Possibly rescinded.

Waltham Forest




Chalk Fired: The Pavement Poet

Chalk Fired: The Pavement Poet

Thanks to The Pavement Poet for the second in our series of guest blogs. I’ve been aware of his work for a number of years but what really put him on my radar was the fact that Swindon specifically constructed a PSPO to prevent him perverting their wannabe sanitised dystopia with his dangerous chalks and free thinking. Here’s what he has to say.

“I remember the day i first put chalk to pavement. At the time i wasn’t hoping for more than a few smiles and the cost of getting myself to the next town. By this point i’d been wandering around for a few years and any plans i’d had when i first set out on my journey had long since vanished with the seasons.

From that moment came a lot, of which my first book “The Pavement Poet: Chalk Fired” is the latest byproduct. Reflecting the poetry led, architecturally inspired, chalk based art form that I have made my own over the last few years, I like to think that this book is much like my work on the pavements. More permanent maybe; but from the poetry, to the photography of my poetic interactions in towns & cities across Europe, right through to the occasional tale of happenstance from what has been a nine year long journey – It’s all there.

I remember well all of the places to have passed me by over the last few years. The pavements, the faces, the conversations. Almost as if this book could never have been but for the time I’ve spent wandering about with my chalk. In that much the streets have given me more than I had ever anticipated. Inspiring not just this book, but also helping me to detach from an increasingly maddening world and become more open to the vast patchwork of people, cultures & ways of being which make this life and this world so fascinating.

Not that it hasn’t been difficult. There can at times be a misperception of those who create in the public space. There’s been the good days, the bad days, the days when every anorak and whichever council official they have on speed dial appears to be against public art. But as always these are just moments and for those of us who do, it’s just another reason to come back the next day.”

You can find out more about The Pavement Poet: Chalk Fired by clicking on the following link or by following The Pavement Poet on Facebook:


What do we say?



What do we say when the chalken pen
Has marked The Way in ways unsaid?
A summer sunrise come to be
For those who choose to go and see.
What do we say when a winter sun
It marks the passing of the fun
Which found us on those summer days
When time and memory went astray?
What do we say to the autumn eye
For those who watch the forest die
Away until a coming spring
Brings warmer days and thankful grins?
What do we say to the spring time gaze
When feeling winter make them age
One more year closer to the end
Where life it rocks and rolls again?


Protest Nottingham PSPO

Protest Nottingham PSPO

Buskers’ rights groups – led by the Keep Streets Live campaign, along with the MusiciansUnion and Equity – have lodged a formal objection to Nottingham City Council’s draft Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

The groups say that the proposals will criminalise street performance across almost the entire city centre, regardless of whether any disturbance or nuisance is actually being caused.

Keep Streets Live has proposed an alternative route– a system of busking guidance now successfully adopted by several dozen towns and cities across the UK, including Liverpool, York and Birmingham. But so far we have received nothing from the council other than an offer to monitor the PSPO once it has been put in place. We are disappointed that it seems a decision has already been made, despite objections from both local buskers and national professional bodies.

In response to the draft PSPO, Stephen Brown, Musicians’ Union Midlands regional organiser said:

“The MU has a clearly defined policy agreed by our membership to ensure that busking remains a vibrant, spontaneous and attractive cultural offer. Our approach is inclusive, encourages working with stakeholders in a positive way, but does not hinder local authorities from taking action on genuine nuisance. Cities imposing PSPOs as a solution to what they perceive as busking generated issues clearly misunderstand busking and are using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I’d advise Nottingham City Council to step back from the brink, and work with organisations like the MU and Keep Streets Live to avoid alienating sections of its own community and suppressing well-established cultural liberty and freedoms.”

Tim Clement-Jones, a Lib Dem peer and prominent live music campaigner, said:

“Busking is vital for bringing cities to life and developing local musical talent. In the recent PSPO Statutory Guidance the government made it clear that busking should not be unduly restricted. I urge Nottingham City Council to reconsider these restrictive and unnecessary proposals.”

Keep Streets Live director Chester Bingley added:

“Considering that even the Antisocial Behaviour team has described problems with busking as only occurring ‘occasionally’, a PSPO seems vastly disproportionate and would certainly be open to a legal challenge. We question why these occasional problems cannot be dealt with firstly by simple dialogue, and then if necessary using existing legislation that targets the individuals concerned rather than inflicts collective punishment on all performers.”

The buskers’ groups are working with the Manifesto Club, which has also raised objections to the parts of the Nottingham PSPO that restrict leafleting, charity collection, and begging. In a submission to Nottingham council, the group said that these measures will ‘do great damage to the citys lively culture of political organisations and charitable causes – as well as making it impossible for homeless people to make money in order to eat.’ Manifesto Club response to Nottingham PSPO

The groups are planning a day of action (including music, leafleting, and a petition) to highlight the contents of the PSPO, raise awareness of its impact, and persuade the police and council that a genuine and active consultation should take place.